Take a Word.... PATH or PATHWAY: Etymology, Phrases, a Poem & a Short Story

Choose your Path

A path to somewhere....
A path to somewhere.... | Source

Etymology

path (noun)

Old English paþ, pæþ "path, track," from West Germanic *patha- (cognates: Old Frisian path, Middle Dutch pat, Dutch pad, Old High German pfad, German Pfad "path"), of uncertain origin. The original initial -p- in a Germanic word is an etymological puzzle. Don Ringe ("From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic," Oxford 2006) describes it as "An obvious loan from Iranian ..., clearly borrowed after Grimm's Law had run its course." Watkins says the word is "probably borrowed (? via Scythian) from Iranian *path-," from PIE root *pent- "to tread, go, pass" (source of Avestan patha "way;" see find (v.)), but this is too much of a stretch for OED and others. In Scotland and Northern England, commonly a steep ascent of a hill or in a road

So some supposition and a little lee-way regarding this word; interesting!

pathway (noun)

used in the same way and delightfully described in the same source as ‘an etymological tautology’


Personal Paths

I trod the path to this door from 4-15 years old!
I trod the path to this door from 4-15 years old! | Source
The path to War
The path to War

Where does your path lead you?

By now your mind has probably conjured up an image of your own familiar or favourite path. It might be the front path from the street to your house. It might be a garden path of your childhood or a path through the woods where you played or explored, daring to venture more deeply into unknown territory.

Conversely, the path could be one of terror; one in a fairy tale which led children into danger, to the lair of a dragon or the witch’s house in the darkness of the woods; the path to war so often taken by soldiers, to freedom or to surrender.


Choice of Pathways

Which one will you choose?
Which one will you choose? | Source
A path in the sand
A path in the sand | Source
A path to your door
A path to your door | Source
The path isn't always smooth
The path isn't always smooth | Source
Will you go beyond the gate?
Will you go beyond the gate? | Source

The Path to Happiness

Everyone chooses a path to follow,

maybe to joy or maybe to sorrow.

How do we know which one to take

when a decision we need to make?


How can we know which way is best?

What’s the right way, is it a test?

Do we take the path of least resistance

or forge a pathway into the distance?


Going down the wrong path is costly

but taking a chance is what happens mostly.

The path of righteousness doesn’t run smooth,

the primrose path* would be a bad move.


You might be led down the garden path

and end up the butt of a joke, a laugh.

You might just follow the beaten path,

play it safe, be the mean on the graph.


Or you might cut a pathway straight through the crowd,

hoping to find your niche, to be proud,

or beat a path to someone’s door,

but fall to your knees, pride in tatters on the floor.


You get back on the war-path, fighting to gain

that longed-for career path, ignoring the pain.

You’ll cross paths with someone who’ll show you the way,

that path to happiness - it will come… one day.


How many paths?

All around us we see footpaths, public paths or pathways. In the country we find bridle paths for horses, meandering paths between the trees, tow-paths along canals, paths which tantalise as they lead around a bend and out of sight. Where do they go? What waits for us around that corner?

Choosing your path can be tricky, not just when you’re trying to follow directions to a particular destination but when it is a path to the future, a path which might decide your fate.

May I introduce George, whose choice of path surprised him.


A Short Story: The Path to... Nowhere?

George was nothing out of the ordinary. He was tall, dark and average-looking. His temperament was even, his humour kindly and he enjoyed watching tele. His office job trotted along nicely, nine to five; no perks but nor were there any onerous drawbacks. His journey to work involved a short walk, a thirty-minute train ride, a few strides around the corner and there he was, ensconced at his desk for the duration, bar a short lunch-break shared with a sandwich and a cup of coffee. The bland office surroundings suited his bland job and his bland life; however, there was an occasional rebel thought which affected his brain like a paring knife. Did bland equal enough?

His private life gave him nothing to sing and dance about; no wife, no girlfriend, the occasional drink in the pub on a Sunday. He was happy enough; no complications, no worries, no upsets. Life didn’t send him any wobblies and he didn’t want to know about anyone else’s trials and tribulations. It suited him to have his one bedroom flat in suburbia, decorated in white and cream with a few prints on the wall and striped curtains to make it look manly. Well, it suited him most of the time.

Just to be contrary, life was about to deliver George a wobbly.


Intriguing Paths

To where does this path lead?
To where does this path lead? | Source
Up the other side
Up the other side | Source

A path across a field

Friday morning came around on time, George was on his usual train, settled with the morning paper. Five minutes later everything juddered to a halt. George looked out of the window and saw the trees, cows, backyards and houses that normally decorated his morning ride. He sat contemplating a small area of countryside by the track for a good ten minutes more. The train had not moved nor had there been any announcement over the useless tannoy. The usual ‘Sor… for….chchzzkk… d’lay… leaves…chch… track.. zzkkshh… shortly’ never arrived.

George noticed a path across the morning-fresh field beneath his window. Its footprint meandered through the grass and disappeared into some trees. A break in the greenery saw a further section but no more. He wondered briefly where it led, then before he knew it he’d opened the door, jumped down and was halfway across the field.


What had he done?

His shoes gathered the dew from the grass, made his socks wet. He kicked off the shoes, peeled away the socks and felt the grass tickling his toes, with the occasional sting to remind him this was reality. A fellow passenger watched this strange figure skip and jump as George continued along the beaten path towards the trees. It stopped now and then to pick a buttercup, put it under his chin and seem to remark, “I love butter!”. The onlooker decided that perhaps the man’s job had suddenly become too much to cope with and he felt sorry for the diminishing speck until it vanished into the trees.

George stopped as he entered the wood; the path had petered out before a dip in the dense undergrowth. A bowl of earth gave him the choice of going downwards before attempting the upward far side, or of skirting the bowl and resuming the path attempting to hide beneath the bushes some metres away. He chose to skirt around it, not wishing to feel enclosed by the earth. He had a pathological fear of being buried alive, hence the statement in his will that he wished to be cremated.


No going back

George had felt elated crossing the grass but his sense detected a more worrying atmosphere here in the dappled shade which shifted with the clouds and the breeze. His impulsive behaviour asked him what had happened to the real George. Should he have stayed on the train? Why did he escape from the carriage and choose that verdant path? He was in uncertain territory and it felt… disturbing with a touch of freedom.

There was no going back ever again, he realised. He’d finally broken free. The mundane quotidian wave had shaken him loose and he knew there was a reason. He knew there was something waiting for him on the other side. Bad choice of phrase, thought George. The other side of the trees was what he was hoping for.

There it was. The path opened like a book, beckoning him. He strode on, feeling cracked soil and a few stones pushing his unshod soles. He didn’t mourn his long-abandoned briefcase, nor his tie now hanging on a branch a few strides back, nor his newly-shed jacket adorning a holly bush. A clearing in the distance revealed a glass and metal object. Here, the path went left and right. He would be forced to make a choice. George didn’t like making decisions. The immediate alternative was to stop. He stopped.


London double-decker bus
London double-decker bus | Source

Bus-stop

The object was a bus-stop. How boring, thought George, I followed an intriguing pathway to find something refreshing, something different, certainly not a bus-stop. He sat, as if waiting for.. well, a bus naturally. He sat in anything but a natural manner. He looked up and down road. He stared across the road, looking for a sign which might explain why he’d ended up here. What had possessed him to jump from a train? He never behaved rashly. He always measured a situation before acting in any way at all. In fact sometimes he just kept on measuring.

As he glanced up and down the road, he noticed a woman walking towards the bus-stop. She sat down next to him.

“Which bus do you take?” she asked, glancing with raised eyebrow at his bare feet. Not wishing to sound like an idiot he replied,

“The number 7. I take it to work.” He’d seen this bus going in the opposite direction. My goodness, he was beginning to think quickly! In reply to the unspoken question, he said, “I took a short cut across the field - shoes got wet…” he shrugged.

“That’s my bus too!” she said.


Decision time

The conversation developed. They both got on the 7 and George found himself out of town in a suburbia he did not recognise. George listened to her chatter and, to his puzzlement, found himself taking part in a relaxing conversation as though he’d known this woman for years. He wasn’t sure about this. Women usually terrified him. This one didn’t. The women at work bossed him around. This one didn’t. The women at work were starchy, all married. They hardly smiled. This one did. George smiled back.

Then he had a decision to make. “This is my stop,” she said.

“Mine too!” said George. “Would you like to meet for lunch?” Where did those words come from? What was going on today?


George begins to live

Thus the blandness was shattered. George’s uncharacteristic action had led him to a new situation. He’d followed a path to the future. He’d acted on impulse.

He could have stayed on the train. He could have remained at the bus stop. He could have left the bus and never seen this woman again. But he didn’t. The path he pursued, the decisions he made, changed his life forever. That rebel thought had surfaced, shoved him out of his robotic state, forced him to live, to wake up and smell the buttercups, feel the grass, cast off the mundane and mould his own future. It beat being buried alive in an empty life.

What he didn’t know was the history of those before him on that chosen path. All had reacted but not all had shed the old life, not all had made the best decisions, not all had found what they needed. George discovered happiness. George realised that his vanishing path had led him to the unexpected, though it was a possibility he’d almost missed. Opportunities were there to be explored. Decisions had to be made, right or wrong, to be able to advance, to learn, to be in control.

George had just begun to live and he would turn the next corner eagerly. George was alive!


...................................................................................................................................


Read & Explore!

So many paths to explore!
So many paths to explore! | Source

Pathways of the Sea

A temporary path engraved in the sand
A temporary path engraved in the sand | Source
Making a path on the water
Making a path on the water | Source
Travelling the charted paths of the sea
Travelling the charted paths of the sea | Source

Paths 'write' a story

I’m going to quote an author I’ve only lately come across but one I admire, Robert Macfarlane. His genre is travel writing but his prose is more like poetry and his phraseology is superior to many of our well-known and loved writers past and present. As a writer, I love his analogies:

“Stories, like paths, relate in two senses; they recount and they connect…. A disputed etymology suggests that our word ‘book’ derives from the High German bok, meaning ‘beech’ - the tree on whose smooth bark marks and signs were often incised in order to indicate routes and paths. Our verb ‘to write’ at one point in its history referred specifically to track-making; the Old English writan meant ‘to incise runic letters in stone’; thus one would ‘write’ a line by drawing a sharp point over and into a surface - by harrowing a track.”


He gives us other similarities

“As the pen rises from the page between words, so the walker’s feet rise and fall between paces, and as the deer continues to run as it bounds from the earth, and the dolphin continues to swim even as it leaps again and again from the sea, so writing and wayfaring are continuous activities, a running stitch, a persistence of the same seam or stream.”

Doesn’t that conjure up a clear scene, a fascinating idea, to you, that our writing is a running stitch connecting a plethora of ideas and concepts?

Mr Macfarlane brings to our attention that there are paths on the sea as well as on land:

“Paths of long usage exist on water…. The oceans are seamed with seaways - routes whose course is determined by prevailing winds and currents - and rivers are among the oldest ways of all.” Thus a port is not the end of a land-bound path, it is the beginning of a pathway across water, joining together the ports of many countries, thereby creating an intricate network of paths across the world, uninterrupted.

A review of his book ‘The Old Ways’ says: “Macfarlane’s writing soars. Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again” (Metro). The book does indeed make you aware of any path you travel; its meaning, its usage and its possible history.


What lies ahead and who has passed this way before you?

Historic pathways up to the top of Glastonbury Tor
Historic pathways up to the top of Glastonbury Tor | Source
South Downs Way, looking out over the Sussex Weald
South Downs Way, looking out over the Sussex Weald | Source

The Unknown before and History behind you

Paths have been created due to certain usage, such as ‘coffin paths’ which have flat ‘resting stones’ on the uphill side, helping the bearers on their way to the graveyard.

“The prehistoric track-ways of the English Downs can still be traced because on their close chalky soil, hard-packed by centuries of trampling, daisies flourish……..

The eye is enticed by a path, and the mind’s eye also. The imagination cannot help but pursue a line in the land - onwards in space, but also backwards in time to the histories of a route and its previous followers.”

It took that reminder to make me think about paths familiar to me, mostly from childhood. We do indeed wonder who has trod a path before us and why. Were they just strolling, running away, working or exploring? Some of their stories are well-known, some can only be surmised. Historical paths exist, such as the Fosse Way, built by the Romans and connecting Exeter in the South West of England to Lincoln further North, and the chalk South Downs pathway in Sussex, a track travelling from Beachy Head above Eastbourne to Winchester at the western end, a track which countless walkers, wanderers, carts and horses have chosen as their route between sea and weald.


Purpose & Destination

I have looked out across that Sussex Weald, wondering what purpose others before me might have had, whilst I was merely out for a Sunday’s walk in the clear, fresh air, a vast sky above me and a misty, stretching vista of fields below where church spires pointed to heaven and cows mooed their contentment. Many of us might choose the same path but each has an individual purpose or destination in mind.

Choose your paths wisely or just enjoy where they take you but, above all, be aware of what they show you and the history they recount.


Go through, follow the path, take a chance!

A Kissing Gate
A Kissing Gate | Source

*Note

I came across this phrase that I hadn’t heard of before; the primrose path. It refers to earthly delights that come to a bad end. Why ‘primrose’? Make of that what you will!

Copyright annart/AFC May 2016


Sources

Robert Macfarlane: ‘The Old Ways - A Journey on Foot’, published by Penguin Non-fiction, ISBN 978-0-141-03058-6

If you want to know more about this author, do visit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/27/robert-macfarlane-word-hoard-rewilding-landscape. It gives you an insight into his view of the link between language and landscape.

www.etymonline.com


Paths to Follow

Have you followed a path? Did it.....

  • lead you astray?
  • lead you to a lifetime's passion?
  • lead you to the love of your life?
  • lead you to fame & fortune (or fame anyway!)?
  • lead you to the place of your dreams?
  • give you a sense of the history and lives it had seen?
  • give you some other experience or destination? (please specify in the comments)
See results without voting

More by this Author


Comments 38 comments

annart profile image

annart 7 weeks ago from SW England Author

Yes, Shyron, in one eye. Apparently it's one of the most dangerous types of shingles. I might write about it but need more background research as the whole virus is quite complicated. If you've had chicken pox it's always with you and can resurface any time. I'm putting the subject into 'drafts'!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 7 weeks ago from SW England Author

Thank you for such a lovely comment, Kenneth.

Ann


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 7 weeks ago

Ann, I thought I had not read this but, to read it again is still interesting.

I read in one of billybuc's hubs about "Optical Shingles" I am guessing you got shingles in you eye(s) that would be an interesting hub subject.

Blessings and hugs dear friend


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

annart,

"Thank you for the encouraging words. I believe that words are tools that can be used to build or tear down, and my friend, I always feel built-up by your comments."

Love you.

Peace.


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Kenneth. I hope things get better for you.

Ann


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hi, Annart,

Yes, I did make that statement of me "staying on HP a little longer." I said that because life (to me) these days is an unsure path with sudden avalanche threats, so I cannot afford to make too many future plans.

I love being with you and My Wonderful Followers on HP.

But there are times, I guess that come to all of us, that the inspiration for "that" one, ideal hub is just not there--and the energy I have to spend in search of it is not as much as it was years ago.

I love and appreciate YOU and your friendship as well as your following me and the opportunity of reading your well-written works.

Have a Peaceful Day.


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Kenneth. I'm glad this was of some use to you.

Your other hub said you might stay on HP longer - I hope you're not thinking of leaving us!

Ann


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Ann,

A superb work on words. I loved each syllable, especially the character George, who reminded me of myself right here and now. Thanks for writing this hub. Anyone with a life struggle should make this a must read. I am serious.

It has been said by a wiser man, that "chances not taken are opportunities not grasped."

This is what this hub said directly to me.

And how true it is.

Love, Kenneth


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you Glenis. Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the reference re 'primrose path'; I'd never heard of it before. I should have known it would be one of the many phrases coined by Shakespeare!

Great to see you here today!

Ann


Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 3 months ago from UK

Great hub! It reminded me of a favourite poem The Road Not Taken, mentioned in an earlier comment by one of your readers. The primrose path is first mentioned in Hamlet 'Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads 1.3 48-52


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you very much, Lawrence, and thanks for voicing your vote! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Ann


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 5 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Ann

Mine would be 'all of the above except number 1"

Loved this story.

Lawrence


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

What a great comment, Mike! You are too kind, especially with ref. to rhyme and rhythm. Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed the walk!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, John, for such a great comment. I like to surprise!

No need to apologise; I appreciate your visits at any time.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Shyron, for your generous comment. I'm glad you liked this. My paths have gone all over the place but ended up in a place I'm very content with.

Ann


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

The path to war, the path in the sand, the rough path are all familiar. Your presentations could almost be book unto themselves. They have the right rhyme and rhythm and are so well paced.

Now, I think I will go for a walk.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia

What a wonderful hub in your Etymology series, Ann. I am sorry I am late reading this but I didn't want to read it quickly and skim through it. I love these hubs and wanted to savour it all. The poem is great, but I particularly loved George's story, and Robert MacFarlane's words about "paths." It is always a pleasant surprise to find out what word you will highlight next in this series. "Path/Pathway" was a great choice.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 5 months ago

Ann, I love the story of George following the path that his heart had made. I am like Ruby, our gem of a friend, with many detours I believe I am exactly where I am meant to be.

Blessings and Hugs dear friend.


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you Ruby! Thanks, too, for the feedback regarding George's story; I appreciate that you saw the point of 'the other side'. Glad your path turned out well too; how do we ever know? I guess it's part intuition, part luck, part courage and part 'jumping in at the deep end'!

I always appreciate your visits and your support. I have some catching up to do!

Ann


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 months ago from Southern Illinois

This was interesting and creative. I like to think that I chose the correct path but had many detours before I reached my destination. I loved George's story. If only we had the courage to see what is on the other side.


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you so much, Theresa. You're always so supportive and positive. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I've missed being here but a house needing renovation takes such a big chunk of time and energy. Just got back after a couple of days there and I'm exhausted! However, it'll be great when it's finished and we can relax and enjoy.

Looking forward to reading more of your work too!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Dora, for your delightful comment. I'm glad you saw hope in my message. We have to be careful but we have to take risks - life would be so boring otherwise and we might not reach our full potential.

Good to see you. I've missed lots lately so I must catch up on your posts too!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks teaches. Good to see you today. I appreciate your comments as I take particular care to search through my photos for those that are relevant.

The paths we choose do teach us some lessons, good or bad!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Hi Stella! I'm glad you enjoyed this and thanks for reading and for your interesting comment. I think we follow far more paths as children; there is an instinct to explore and a wonder at finding out. As adults we're shadowed by fear and over-caution when we're older.

Good to see you.

Ann


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 5 months ago from southern USA

Hi Ann,

What a treasury here you have produced! I've missed you here and am so happy to see you have posted this gem.

This reminds me a bit of Robert Frost's poem, "The Road not Taken."

Life has its mysteries no doubt and we may wonder about the paths we have taken or not taken, but the unknown makes life exciting.

Thank you for sharing about your profile photo. I have always wondered about it. It is so beautiful.

Your story and poem are wonderful and make this hub a great read.

Peace and blessings always


MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 months ago from The Caribbean

Sheer inspiration! The poem, the store, everything gives a message of hope that paths may lead to our desired destination. You also remind us to practice caution when we must choose our paths.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 5 months ago

The path I've taken has led me through some interesting lessons on life. I enjoyed your post. The photos as so appropriate and greatly enhance the article.


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 5 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

I enjoyed reading your nice hub. Paths are what we have choosen to follow. I do not know if I chose my path or it was already done for me before my birth. I loved exploring different ones when I was a child. Thanks. Stella


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Venkatachari M: Thank you so much for your kind words. I too enjoyed following paths as a child; still do! If you don't explore then you don't find the wonderful things which exist in the world.

Wishing you a wonderful day and an enjoyable weekend.

Ann


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 5 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Beautiful hub. I loved taking paths during my childhood. Sometimes risky, sometimes nice. Even now, I try to walk instead of taking an auto according to my capacity. I love paths through woods and fields much more. And this literary path is inducing me nowadays since 2 years and I am much fascinated enjoying these paths. Thanks for taking me through a wonderful journey.


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Eric. What a lovely comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this and it's so good to see you again. I owe you quite a few visits and I'll get round to reading more soon.

Ann


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Thank you Ann. I love to hike. And so I follow literally many paths. You make reading a joy, a pathway to better understanding.


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Frank. I really do appreciate you taking the time to read my offerings. I too am way behind with others' hubs, including yours, but I will get through the list eventually! I always love reading yours & I'll visit soon.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

RTalloni: Thank you for reading and for your valuable comment. Yes, a path is a recurring theme in religion. We choose to follow or not, depending on belief or circumstance.

I like your interesting example of the primrose path. Good to see you today!

Ann


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 5 months ago from Shelton

I really am behind in so many hubs.. but when this came on the feed I had to read it before any others.. I love when you do these types of hub


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 months ago from the short journey

Paths caught my attention, your interesting post kept me reading. Paths are a strong theme in the Christian Bible. Psalm 119:105 may be one of the most well known verses on pathways, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 16:11 is a precious commentary, "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy…"

It's always a fascinating study to consider paths that people take, the why, the journey, the consequences. In times of self-indulgence choosing paths wisely is important, otherwise, the journey may be rougher than need be and the consequence more far-reaching than we can imagine.

Your mention of the primrose path caused me to think of the welfare system established in the USA (1935 I think). While there is a place for charity to the needy, the government definitely did/continues to lead people down a primrose path with the program(s). Jason L. Riley's book Please Stop Helping Us is an honest discussion on the primrose path with true definitions of what poor families actually face.


annart profile image

annart 5 months ago from SW England Author

What a lovely thing to say, bill! Thank you. How great to have my writing regarded as a gift.

The funny thing is, the house we're renovating is similar too, in age and design - I've come full circle in the path I've chosen!

A wizard Wednesday to you, bill!

Ann:)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

I grew up in a brick home very similar to the one you showed in that picture....a little eerie. LOL

You are soooooooo good! These etymology articles are so well written...really, great creativity and quality writing, rolled up into a nice neat package with a bow on top.

Thank you for the gift and Happy Wednesday to you, Ann!

bill

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